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Flag of Portugal: History, Meaning, and Other Interesting Facts

Flag of Portugal: History, Meaning, and Other Interesting Facts
The origins of the Portuguese national flag date back to the year 1095. Along with the country, the flag too evolved with changes in its colors and symbols, and each representing different emotions and historical events.
Vrinda Varnekar
Last Updated: Jul 25, 2017
"Who is not patriotic, cannot be considered Portuguese."
― Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, former Prime Minister of Portugal.
The Portuguese Republic, commonly known as Portugal, is the western-most country in Europe, sharing its border with Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. Renowned for its history, culture, cuisine, and passion for soccer, Portugal is often ranked among the top twenty global holiday destinations.

The Portuguese national flag boasts of a coat of arms with the country's traditional shield on an inexact field of green and red which is approximately in the ratio 2:3. The green portion covers two-fifths of the flag, while the red covers the remaining three-fifths. The length of the flag is approximately 1½ times its width. The green section of the flag is closer to the hoist, while the red section adorns the rest of the flag.
History and Evolution
The flag of Portugal has quite a colorful history (pun not intended!). It is said that in the year 1095, Henry, Count of Portugal used what could be called the first emblem to be associated with the country during his battle with the Moors. This was a shield with a blue cross on a white field. However, this point is still largely debated among historians.
Shield of count Henry
The shield of Count Henry.
King Afonso I, son of Count Henry, used the same shield during his reign, with some noticeable changes. Historians cite that he added the blue cross with five sets of flat silver discs, representing his new political status and his novel right to issue currency. Over the centuries, the flag of Portugal underwent several alterations, with additions of colors and other elements. However, the concept of the traditional shield remained more or less the same on the flag.
Shield of King Afonso I
The shield of King Afonso I.
In the year 1830, Queen Maria II chose a design that would last for the next eighty years. This flag was a field of blue and white with the traditional shield positioned in the center of the flag, in a slightly-French influenced shape. This flag witnessed the final monarchical period of Portugal and was annulled post the revolution in 1910. The revolution and the subsequent win of the Republican party led to the introduction and design of the current Portuguese flag.
Old Portugal flag
The flag chosen by Queen Maria II.
The scarlet red in the current flag symbolizes the Portuguese revolution of 1910 that overthrew the ruling monarchy and established a republic. It is symbolic of the bloodshed of the revolution, and in remembrance of the patriots who laid down their lives for the cause. The green in the flag represents the hope of the Portuguese people, while the yellow sphere on the flag, also known as the Coat of Arms, represents the rich maritime history of the country. The white inescutcheon, which is a small shield contained in a larger red one, has five bezants (flat discs) on five blue shields, that symbolize the defeat of the Moors by King Afonso, the first king of Portugal. These discs also symbolize the divine assistance received by the king in order to defeat the five Moorish kings, as well as the five wounds of Jesus Christ. The outer red shield contains seven castles, which again represent the annexation of Portugal's boundaries.
Coat of Arms
Symbolic of Portugal's rich maritime history
Symbolic of Portugal's rich maritime history.
The Coat of Arms is the yellow sphere on the flag of Portugal, spanning both the green and red sections of the flag equally. This Coat of Arms contains the traditional Portuguese shield as well as an armillary sphere (a model of the celestial globe with rings and hoops, representing the Earth) which was used by ancient explorers to navigate the Earth. Portugal has a rich history of ancient navigators, such as Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco da Gama, and this sphere, or the Coat of Arms, is emblematic of the nautical culture of Portugal.
Interesting Facts About The National Flag of Portugal
National flag of Portugal
The current national flag of Portugal.
The aftermath of the 1910 Portuguese revolution led to the proposal for a new design of the flag. This caused a huge debate among the people, which sometimes even led to violence. The debate was mainly about what colors the new flag would have―the traditional colors of the monarchy, blue and white, or the red and green colors suggested by the republicans. After disputes, differences, and reflection, the green and red were finalized, and the current national flag was born.
Even though the concept of the current national flag of Portugal was introduced after the 1910 revolution, it was officially adopted on June 30, 1911, after the design was selected and approved by a special committee of diplomats, military leaders, ministers, artists, and philosophers.
The Portuguese flag is hoisted upside-down in order to denote distress.
Portugal has a different war flag, which is separate from the national one. This flag is generally only used for parades.
High-ranking government officials in Portugal are also represented by different flags, which are slightly different than the national one.
Apart from the traditional meaning, the Coat of Arms also represents the bravery of the Portuguese people.
It is imperative to know the story behind a flag in order to understand the struggle and sacrifices of all the people who contributed towards the evolution of that country. The beautifully emblemed Portuguese flag is thus representative of the glorious historical timeline of Portugal.